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Privacy Evaluation for Messages

Last updated January 19, 2021

Overview

Messages by Google allows users to send text messages (SMS, MMS) and chat (RCS) to stay in touch with friends and family, send group texts, and share their favorite pictures, GIFs, emoji, stickers, videos and audio messages. Google’s terms say they use information to help improve the safety and reliability of the services. Many of their services let users share information with other people, and users have control over how they share. The terms say Google does not sell users' data to third parties. However, the terms also say Google may display targeted advertisements to users based on their personal information and app activity or activity on other Google services. The terms say Google allows third-party partners to track a user's browser or device for advertising on other sites across the internet. In addition, Google’s terms say they are fully committed to the security and privacy of users’ data and protecting users from attempts to compromise it. Google claims its systems are among the industry’s most secure and they vigorously resist any unlawful attempt to access customers’ data. Lastly, Google’s terms say they allow users to access, modify, delete, and export their data using the service at any time.

Messages by Google can be accessed through its website, and is available for download at the Google Play Store. The Privacy Policy and Terms of Service used for this evaluation can be found on the Messages website, and the Google Play Store. This evaluation only considers policies that have been made publicly available prior to an individual using the application or service.

Additionally, other relevant policies used for this evaluation include:

Data Collection
SCORE: 65%

What data does it collect?

  • Personally identifiable information (PII) is collected.
  • The categories of collected personally identifiable information are indicated.
  • Collection or use of data is limited to product requirements.
  • Geolocation data are collected.
  • Biometric or health data are collected.
  • Behavioral data are collected.
  • Sensitive data are collected.
  • Non-personally identifiable information is collected.
  • Opt-in consent is requested from users at the time personal information is collected.
  • Personal information of users is collected by a third party.
Data Sharing
SCORE: 90%

What data does it share?

  • Collected information is shared with third parties.
  • The categories of information shared with third parties are indicated.
  • The purpose for sharing a user's personal information with third parties is indicated.
  • The categories of third parties that receive personal information are indicated.
  • Data are shared for analytics.
  • Data are shared for research and/or product improvement.
  • Data are shared with third-party service providers.
  • The roles of third-party service providers are indicated.
  • Social or federated login is supported.
  • Contractual limits are placed on third-party data use.
Data Security
SCORE: 95%

How does it secure data?

  • A user's identity is verified with additional personal information.
  • Account creation is required.
  • Parental controls or managed accounts are available.
  • Two-factor account protection is available.
  • Third-party contractual security protections are required.
  • Industry best practices are used to protect data.
  • Employee or physical access to user information is limited.
  • All data in transit are encrypted.
  • All data at rest are encrypted.
  • Notice is provided in the event of a data breach.
Data Rights
SCORE: 95%

What rights do I have to the data?

  • Users can create or upload content.
  • Users retain ownership of their data.
  • Processes to access and review user data are available.
  • Processes to modify inaccurate data are available.
  • A data-retention policy is available.
  • Processes for the school, parents, or students to delete data are available.
  • A user's data are deleted upon account cancellation or termination.
  • Data are deleted when no longer necessary.
  • Permissions, roles, or access controls are available to restrict who has access to data.
  • Processes to download user data are available.
Data Sold
SCORE: 60%

Is the data sold?

  • Data are not sold or rented to third parties.
  • Users can opt out from the disclosure or sale of their data to a third party.
  • User information can be transferred to a third party.
  • Users are notified if their information is transferred to a third party.
  • Unclear whether user information can be deleted prior to its transfer to a third party.
  • Third-party transfer is contractually required to use the same privacy practices.
  • User information is shared in an anonymous or deidentified format.
  • Unclear whether the vendor describes their deidentification process of user information.
  • Data are shared for research and/or product improvement.
  • Unclear whether contractual limits prohibit third parties from reidentifying deidentified information.
Data Safety
SCORE: 65%

How safe is this product?

  • Users can interact with trusted users and/or students.
  • Users can interact with untrusted users, including strangers and/or adults.
  • Profile information is shared for social interactions.
  • Personal information is displayed publicly.
  • Users can control how their data are displayed.
  • User-created content is reviewed, screened, or monitored by the vendor.
  • Unclear whether user-created content is filtered for personal information before being made publicly visible.
  • Unclear whether social interactions between users are moderated.
  • Social interactions of users are logged.
  • Users can report abuse or cyberbullying.
Ads & Tracking
SCORE: 50%

Are there advertisements or tracking?

  • Data are not shared for third-party advertising and/or marketing.
  • Traditional or contextual advertisements are displayed.
  • Behavioral or targeted advertising is displayed.
  • Data are collected by third-party advertising or tracking services.
  • Data are used to track and target advertisements on other third-party websites or services.
  • Data profiles are created and used for data enhancement, and/or targeted advertisements.
  • The vendor can send marketing messages.
  • Unclear whether this vendor provides promotional sweepstakes, contests, or surveys.
  • Users can opt out of traditional, contextual, or behavioral advertising.
  • Unclear whether this product provides users the ability to opt out or unsubscribe from marketing communications.
Parental Consent
SCORE: 85%

Can I provide parental consent?

  • Intended for children under 13.
  • Personal information from children under 13 years of age is collected online.
  • Intended for parents or guardians.
  • Vendor does have actual knowledge that personal information from users under 13 years of age is collected.
  • Children's privacy is applicable.
  • Parental consent is required.
  • Parental consent is limited with respect to third parties.
  • Parents can withdraw consent for the further collection of their child's information.
  • Unclear whether this product deletes children's personal information if collected without parental consent.
  • Parental consent notice and method for submission are provided.
School Purpose
SCORE: 45%

Is the product intended for school?

  • Intended for students.
  • Unclear whether personal information or education records are collected from preK-12 students.
  • Unclear whether intended for teachers.
  • Product is not primarily used by, designed for, and marketed toward students in grades preK–12.
  • Product does create education records.
  • Notification of a contract or additional rights is provided.
  • Unclear whether this product designates the vendor as a school official.
  • Parental consent obligations are transferred to the school or district.
  • Unclear whether the vendor indicates FERPA parental consent exceptions.
  • Unclear whether this product discloses directory information.

Common Sense Standard Privacy Report (SPR)

The standard privacy report (SPR) displays all the privacy practices from a product's policies in a single, easy-to-read outline. The report shows a green check mark for better privacy practices and an orange alert for risky or unclear practices. This alert indicates that more time should be focused on these particular details prior to use.

About Privacy Evaluations

The privacy evaluations have been designed with the help and support of a consortium of schools and districts across the United States. These evaluations are designed to help educators make informed decisions about the potential privacy implications of educational technology used to support teaching and learning.

Our core evaluation criteria will always be freely available. People are encouraged to read the questions we use and our information security primer. Vendors are encouraged to use our questions and the information security primer to self-evaluate. You can also learn more about our evaluation process. Please be in touch with any questions or feedback.